In a Nutshell
Storm and Cyclops duel for leadership of the X-Men.
Writer: Chris Claremont
Guest Penciler: Rick Leonardi
Guest Inker: Whilce Portacio
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Colorist: Glynis Oliver
Editor: Ann Nocenti
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
The X-Men return to the mansion from France and marvel over Cyclops and Madelyne's new baby. Outside the room, Storm and Madelyne discuss the growing distance between Madelyne and Cyclops, while Cyclops worries whether the X-Men can trust Magneto. Meanwhile, aboard the Starjammer, a recovered Xavier is told that with the ship damaged and hunted by the Shi'ar, it will be a long time, if ever, before the Starjammers can return him home. Back on Earth, the X-Men play a game of baseball while Scott and Maddy argue about their future. Scott insists that, with Xavier gone, Magneto at the school and Storm powerless, the X-Men need him now more than ever, while Maddy says he has a responsibility to his own family. Just then, Storm interrupts, and proposes a duel between her and Cyclops, one-on-one in the Danger Room, with the winner declared the leader of the team.
The duel begins as the X-Men watch (and take bets) from the control room. Storm quickly gains the upper hand over a distracted and overconfident Cyclops, ultimately nabbing his visor. Unwilling to risk accidentally blasting Storm or destroying the room, Cyclops concedes defeat. Dejected, and realizing there's no longer a place for him on the team, he leaves, wondering if, after everything he's said, there's even a place for him with Madelyne. Later, Rachel returns to the Grey home and adds her essence to the holoempathic crystal of Jean, determined to ensure that even if her timelines never comes to pass, she'll be remembered.
Firsts and Other Notables
This is the first appearance of Cyclops' son, who will, eventually, thanks to retcons and the 90s, grow up to become Cable, the mutant solider from the future, which then retroactively makes this the earliest chronological appearance of Cable as well. Though unnamed in this issue, the baby will, after a laughably long amount of time, finally have his name revealed in Uncanny X-Men #239: Nathan Christopher Charles Summers (a mouthful even before you start adding in all the Cable aliases).
Storm rejoins the X-Men as of this issue, and regains her position as team leader after defeating Cyclops in a duel for the title (Nightcrawler, technically still the current team leader as this issue opens, never factors into the discussions over who should lead, quietly bringing to an end his tenure as leader).
Cyclops, having never officially rejoined the team during his recent return, leaves once more for his lengthiest absence yet: slated to star in X-Factor, launching the month following this issue, he won't return to the X-Men until after Claremont has left the title, and won't be a regular feature specifically in Uncanny X-Men until well after Claremont's complete departure from the franchise. This means that, after the brief period following Angel's departure in issue #148, we are heading into the longest period yet in which no member of the original team will be featured in the book.
Feeling neglected by Scott and upset by his desire to remain with the X-Men over his family, Maddy is despondent during his duel with Storm, hoping he'll lose but knowing it will crush him if he does, and saddened that the only way he'll stay with his family is if he's forced to. Later stories will reveal that Maddy, using powers she doesn't yet know she has, subconsciously affected the duel, leading to Cyclops' defeat (there's also a hint, during the duel, that Storm's powers may be returning; this, like Communism, ultimately proves to be nothing more than a red herring).
It is confirmed (at least to the readers) that Professor X will not be returning to the team anytime soon, as he finds himself healed but stranded across the galaxy with the Starjammers, who, at this time, are rebels fighting to overthrow Lilandra's sister Deathbird and restore Lilandra to the throne, leaving them on the run from the Shi'ar Empire and cut off from their usual resources. We'll see him once more in issue #203, and then he'll disappear from the book for a good long while.
Rachel, rather remarkably, manages to interact with her pseudo little brother and not burst into tears (it's also affirmed that as far as Rachel is concerned, Cyclops is still unaware of their relationship), and promises to always be there for him, something we'll actually see in the future: she will respond to his distress during "Inferno", and later, through a convoluted series of retcons, will be established as the driving force behind the group which brings him into the future, saving his life, and putting him on the path towards becoming Cable.
The issue ends with Rachel repairing the Shi'ar holoempathic crystal she damaged in issue #199, adding a bit of her essence to it, and reaffirming her pledge to do right by the name Phoenix. This is followed by a scene of the Watcher on the moon and a beam of energy, originating from the location of Jean Grey's death, heading towards Earth. It's never been entirely clear what this burst of energy is meant to represent, whether Rachel's formal adoption of the Phoenix Force (though this was meant to occur in #199 and future stories will establish happened even before that), a tie-in to the events that saw the return of Jean Grey in other titles this month (though that suggests perhaps a higher level of magnanimity towards those events on Claremont's part than he's reported to have possessed) or something else entirely.
Rick Leonardi fills in as guest penciller, inked by future Uncanny X-Men penciller and Image co-founder Whilce Portacio, making Portacio the first Image founder to work on one of the regular X-books.
The Chronology Corner
Following this issue, Shadowcat and Wolverine guest star in Power Pack #19 (which we're not covering) before joining the rest of the X-Men in Alpha Flight #33 (which we'll look at next week).
A Work in Progress
Madelyne mentions having survived the crashing of a 747 she was piloting, which remains the most significant detail we've been given about her past. She also says that she gave birth to her son on the floor of the mansion, his birth occurring before the parademics arrived.
In a little throwaway moment I've always liked, Rachel creates a psi-link between Kitty and the baby so Kitty can experience his thoughts.
The X-Men once again play baseball in their downtime, the third time they've done so (and, I believe, the final time they do so during Claremont's tenure).
Cyclops once again mentions his distrust of Magneto, who is seen in this issue training in the Danger Room with the New Mutants and later watching the Storm/Cyclops duel with the rest of the X-Men and New Mutants.
In a continuation of the lamest subplot ever, Storm mentions that Kitty's ophthalmology appointment has been scheduled.
Madelyne, rightly and somewhat hilariously, points out how ridiculous Cyclops' notion that he'll lead the X-Men and she'll stay home with the baby is, considering that between the two of them, she's the one with a job and marketable skills (something which doesn't quite gel with X-Men/Alpha Flight, which suggested that Scott and Maddy were working for his grandparents' airline together).
I Love the 80s
Sam is seen working on a term paper regarding the Soviet Union on a very 80s computer.
Later, Rogue catches a flyball hit by Colossus that passes by Air Force One, on which President Reagan is seen discussing a meeting with Senator [Bob] Dole and a reception for the New York Mets with his Chief of Staff Donald [Regan]. Oddly, it's said that the Mets' reception is meant to congratulate them on winning the World Series, yet the Mets didn't win the World Series until October of 1986. The 1985 World Series, which the Kansas City Royals won, would have been unfolding when this issue hits the stands in October of 85. All I can assume is that some amount of wishful thinking on the part of one of the creators may be at play here, as the Mets did finish the '85 season only three games behind the eventual National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NL East standings.
Rachel thinks, prays that she can repair the holoempathic crystal.
I don't call out the lettering often enough, but there's an especially clever bit in this issue - as Nightcrawler tickles Rachel, the words depicting her uncontrollable laughter get larger and smaller (and bolder and less bold) relative to the regular font, visually creating the aural sensation of her words getting louder and softer as the tickling continues. It's a neat effect that saves what would be an otherwise all-too-twee bit.
Cyclops' lack of phone calls to Maddy before and after the birth, mentioned last issue, are brought up again, something which, combined with his lack of phone calls during the "the world believes the X-Men are dead" plot in the Claremont/Byrne run, prompted fellow X-blogger Abigail Brady to suggest that Cyclops must have a pathological fear of phones.
The Awesome and Terrible Power of Cyclops
As their duel begins, Cyclops tells Storm that he'll only use "ultra low power" blasts, which seems like something, given what we know of his power, he shouldn't really have any control over.
"Mmm...64 slices of American Cheese...."
Instead of a Hostess comic, this issue features one for Cap'N Crunch.
It's in the Mail
The letters page is back, with letters discussing issues #189-#192.
I have never been terribly fond of this issue. Objectively, it's not bad: it's a Classic Claremont Quiet Issue, focusing on character interactions and reactions to recent plot events, and Leonardi proves a capable fill-in for Romita Jr.. It's also certainly a significant issue in terms of the ongoing X-Men narrative, featuring as it does the first appearance of Cyclops' son (and, thanks to retcons, 90s mainstay Cable), the return of Storm, the confirmation of Professor Xavier's departure and the beginning of Cyclops' longest continued absence from the book. But it's the way that last part is carried out that, not surprisingly, rubs me the wrong way about this issue.
"Duel" essentially serves as Claremont's attempt to put Cyclops into position for his role in X-Factor. Leaving aside the ridiculous notion that powerless Storm somehow beat Cyclops (he says pushing his glasses up to the bridge of his nose), on the grounds that it was necessary for larger plot-based reasons (sort of like how the star of a book will always beat a guest star, even a more powerful one), the problem is, as we'll shortly see, in order for the original vision of X-Factor to be met, Cyclops has to be written grossly out of character, as an insensitive jerk (at best). Though not as bad as it will become elsewhere, that depiction of, for lack of a better term, Jerk Ass Cyclops, begins in earnest here.
To be clear, I don't blame Claremont for it: his dissatisfaction with both the return of Jean Grey (after being forced to change his original storyline to kill her) and what it meant for the happy ending he'd given Cyclops with Maddy are a matter of record at this point. And to his credit, he does the best job that he can in a limited amount of space to sell Cyclops' upcoming heel turn: there's an interesting kernel of an idea in the notion that Cyclops is good at little else than leading a paramilitary mutant strike force, as well as in the conflict between what Cyclops feels are his responsibilities to the man he considers his father and his responsibilities to his own son.
But Claremont only has so much room to work with here (learning of Marvel's plans for X-Factor while working on issue #198, that he managed to squeeze in a Cyclops' sendoff amongst his other storylines at all is a testament to his fondness for the character), and as a result, those ideas remain little more than kernels. While Claremont, along with his former editor Louise Simonson, will eventually do what they can to undo what's begun here, it will take several years, a line-wide crossover, and the complete destruction of Madelyne's character to even start the rehabilitation. Which, for a Cyclops fan, makes it hard to enjoy this issue, despite all of the other enjoyable, non-Cyclops-related moments.
Tomorrow, the Beyonder and Secret Wars II return in New Mutants #36, and next week, we get another glimpse at Wolverine's past in Alpha Flight #33-34